We're used to expecting bulk and comfort from HOKA ONE ONE, so when they released the new-for-2018 Mach, we couldn't wait to try it out. We are impressed by the manufacturer's ability to shave ounces without sacrificing landing comfort, and we appreciate the minimalist features combined with heaps of underfoot support. While some of our testers do like a bit of additional padding for our long runs, the minimalist-minded runner in us really appreciates how comfortable this shoe is while maintaining our natural stride. This shoe is much less bulky than the other HOKA models we tested and could be an excellent choice for runners looking for more comfort without all the weight, winning it our Top Pick for Weight award!
HOKA ONE ONE Mach - Women's Review
Cons: More expensive, less upper comfort
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The HOKA Mach is a lightweight, comfortable shoe that maintains a minimalist feel without sacrificing landing support.
Landing comfort is a giant category and one that we here at OutdoorGearLab take pretty seriously. We've been stacking up the miles recently, and nothing diminishes our stoke more than blisters and sore toes. For this metric, we looked at all the ins and outs of cushioning. We'd like to remind you here that landing comfort is almost always in direct competition with responsiveness. Our favorite shoes have a blend of both, which isn't always easily read in numerical scores.
In typical HOKA fashion, the Mach is pretty dang comfortable. While the manufacturer markets this shoe as more responsive than comfort, on our scale, we'd still mark it as highly cushioned. Compared to its brethren, the Mach is less cushioned than both the Bondi and Clifton.
With a 5mm heel-toe drop, our testers found this shoe to have great potential for the average runner who keeps the mileage low and is looking for equal amounts of bounce and cushion. As far as underfoot comfort goes, this shoe is on par with some of our award winners, like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS.
If landing comfort tells us how cloud-like something feels when we land, responsiveness tells us how much horsepower we have. While some shoes are meant to support, others dream of speed. To test this metric, we evaluated how springy and bouncy each shoe was in direct comparison to its competitors.
HOKA claims this shoe is on the responsive end of its spectrum, but we determined it is right in the middle. Landing comfort and responsiveness are often fighting for importance, and we actually found the Mach to be a nice blend of the two. While not as bouncy as the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus, this shoe is the speediest of all the HOKA models we tested by far. In most of our reviews, we want high scores in every metric. For this review, however, moderate scores in both responsiveness and landing comfort indicate a well-rounded shoe that favors most runners. With a 6/10 in responsiveness and an 8/10 in landing comfort, the Mach is doing very well so far.
Our testers liked a lot of things about the Mach, but landing comfort just wasn't one of them. We realize that weight has to be cut somewhere, and it's evident that the ounces were shed in the upper of this shoe. Just like the other HOKA models in this review, there was very minimal padding in the upper part of this shoe.
We'd love to have seen a bit more cushioning in the tongue of the Mach. We never had problems, but when we wanted to lace up for our long runs, we found ourselves reaching for a heavier, more padded shoe like the Brooks Glycerin. The tongue and heel are definitely minimal, though made of soft materials.
Luckily, this also added in some improved breathability. Our testers really liked these shoes on warm days and found the thin upper provides ample airflow. Overall, the Mach has an above-average but not stellar upper that was clearly used to cut ounces.
Stability is a strange category, and not everyone is going to want a high score here. Some shoes are designed for support and are ideal for runners who pronate. Others are designed to be neutral, offering a bit of lateral support but nothing meant to correct your gait. While the Mach is a neutral shoe, not meant for pronating runners, it did have a nice amount of support on the sides that any runner could appreciate.
The midfoot of the Mach fits nicely and is neither too wide nor too narrow. Our feet felt secure but not constricted. The arch appears neutral as well, while is great for many runners, but not those with high arches. The sides of the shoe are reinforced with a sturdy mesh that lets our feet feel sheltered but not cramped. While the support on this shoe is relatively minimal, this is an excellent option for runners looking for a more minimal feel that lets their feet splay out naturally.
We tend to associate HOKA with heavier, burlier shoes, so we were pretty shocked when we picked up the Mach. At just 6.8 ounces, this is the lightest shoe we tested by far; we're speaking in fractions of ounces here, but the next closest thing was the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante and the Altra Escalante, both 7.1 ounces.
Weight can be important for a variety of reasons, ranging from the requirements of your body to your simple need for speed. Our testing team agreed that, while good to consider, we'd recommend looking at weight as a secondary category after your more primary needs have been met, like comfort and the responsiveness/landing comfort balance.
We would like to note, however, that for the weight, this shoe was definitely more comfortable than the two mentioned above. The Zante was a bit more responsive, while the Mach had a nicer landing comfort, and the Escalante fell a bit flat in both categories. If maximum comfort is what you're looking for, though, you're just going to have to cough up the ounces.
Thanks to the Mach's light weight and minimal support, our testers believe this is a great shoe for runners who want a more natural feel. The minimalist movement is in, and companies like HOKA and Altra are taking the bait. If ounces mean everything to you, this shoe is very comfortable, especially when compared directly to other models in the same weight range.
Coming in hot with a retail price of $140, these shoes are on the upper end of the cost scale. It's hard to determine if something is "worth" its price, especially since running shoes are so incredibly individual. We believe there are shoes just as well-rounded as the Mach for not quite as high a price, like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS at $120. That being said, this shoe is noticeably lighter than any other we tested, so if ounce-counting is your thing, this shoe is more comfortable than the light yet cheap New Balance Zante.
At the end of the day, we have plenty of great things to say about the Mach. It's super light and great on the landing comfort, and many runners will like the minimalist fit of the upper. We are happy to award this shoe our Top Pick for Weight, perfect for runners looking to shave ounces above all else.
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Most recent review: July 13, 2018
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